H.R. 2410: Little Devils in the Details

H.R. 2410 Foreign Relations Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2010 and 2011 passed quickly in the House last week. Of the twenty-seven amendments proposed for this bill, twenty –three were accepted. This bill passed the House 235-187, 11 not voting with 92% of Democrats supporting, 97% of Republicans opposing. You can track the progress of this bill here. One of the amendments that strike me as odd is below.

(3) H.Amdt. 183 by Rep. Polis [D-CO2]
An amendment numbered 3 printed in part C of House Report 111-143 to broaden the experience within the Foreign Service and encourage Foreign Service officers to pursue a functional specialty by making it mandatory to develop a functional focus during an officer’s first two years as well as creating a more diverse promotions panel where functional and regional specialists are evenly distributed. It requires the State Department to make materials from libraries and resource centers, including U.S. films available over the Internet when possible and for the advisory commission on public diplomacy to gauge the effectiveness of online outreach authorized under section 214. Proposed: Jun 10, 2009. Accepted: Jun 10, 2009. (italics added)


Entry level officers come into the Service with assigned cones (that is, with specialization or career tracks). But they normally spend the first 1-2 tours (2-4 years) working in the consular section doing visa work. If officers are to pursue a functional specialty and will be mandatorily required to develop a functional focus during their first two years – how is that going to impact consular operations at US missions around the globe?


Still on Consular Issues — SEC. 232. Refers to consular services in Moldova; I did not realized that Moldova has any more human trafficking issues than the other 13 Tier 3 countries cited in the 2008 Trafficking in Persons Report. But for whatever reason, it got Congress’ attention. If this passes, an additional consular officer may be heading to Chisanau:

Sec 232: SENSE OF CONGRESS REGARDING ADDITIONAL CONSULAR SERVICES IN MOLDOVA. It is the sense of Congress that in light of serious problems with human trafficking as well as the exceptionally high volume of applications by citizens of Moldova to the United States Summer Work Travel program, the Secretary of State should make every effort to enhance consular services at the United States embassy in Chisinau, Moldova, including considering assigning an additional consular officer to such post, and providing enhanced anti-trafficking training, especially related to student exchange visas and other vulnerable categories of visa applicants.


Section 233-235 provides for reforming the refugee processing, English language and cultural awareness training for approved Iraqi refugees and more on Iraqi refugees and IDPs.


SEC. 236 provides for a pilot program for visa interviews through video conferencing technology.

Sec.236. VIDEOCONFERENCE INTERVIEWS. (a) Pilot Program- The Secretary of State may develop and conduct a two-year pilot program for the processing of tourist visas using secure remote videoconferencing technology as a method for conducting visa interviews of applicants.

(b) Report- Not later than one year after initiating the pilot program under subsection (a) and again not later than three months after the conclusion of the two-year period referred to in such subsection, the Secretary of State shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report on such pilot program. Each such report shall assess the efficacy of using secure remote videoconferencing technology as a method for conducting visa interviews of applicants and include recommendations on whether or not the pilot program should be continued, broadened, or modified.


Section 238 provides for a 30-day processing for certain immigrant visas and fiancée visas of US citizens. Applications exceeding the time period requires the review of the chief of the Consular Section by more than five days and provide expedited processing.

SEC. 238. PROCESSING OF CERTAIN VISA APPLICATIONS. (a) Policy- It shall be the policy of the Department of State to process immigrant visa applications of immediate relatives of United States citizens and nonimmigrant k-1 visa applications of fiances of United States citizens within 30 days of the receipt of all necessary documents from the applicant and the Department of Homeland Security. In the case of a visa application where the sponsor of such applicant is a relative other than an immediate relative, it should be the policy of the Department of State to process such an application within 60 days of the receipt of all necessary documents from the applicant and the Department of Homeland Security.

(b) Review by Head of Consular Section- For any visa application described in subsection (a), it shall be the policy of the Department of State to require the head of the consular section (or designee) of any United States diplomatic or consular post to review any such application that exceeds the applicable time period specified in such subsection by more than five days, and, as appropriate, provide for expedited processing of such application.


So – entry level officers will be mandatorily required to develop a functional focus on their first two years at State; meanwhile, the pressure cooker in the consular section is just going to get hotter with a 30-day limit for processing certain visas. I wonder who are going to do all this work if the officers will be developing their functional focus? Also, it’s curious that DHS which actually adjudicate these petitions is not on the line here—when I last look it takes about 6 months to get K-1 visas approved.


Don’t get any heartburn yet — this bill has just landed in the Senate; we can’t really say how this is going to look like after it gets a work over in there. But I hope the Consular Bureau is paying attention.

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